Description of the Twenty
Illustrations of the Manufacture of Porcelain

By Tang Ying, Director of the Imperial Factory at Jingdechen,
in obedience to an Imperial edict... (1743)

16. Opening the Kiln when the Porcelain has been fired

"The perfection of the porcelain depends upon the firing, which, reckoning from the time of putting in to that of taking out, usually occupies three days. On the fourth day, early in the morning, the furnace is opened, but the saggars inside, which contain the porcelain, are still of a dull-red color, and it is impossible to enter yet.

After a time the workmen who open the kiln, with their hands protected by gloves of ten or more folds of cotton soaked in cold water, and with damp cloths wrapped around their heads, shoulders, and backs, are able to go in to take out the porcelain.

After the porcelain has all been removed and while the furnace is still hot the new charge of ware is arranged in its place. In this way the new porcelain, which is still damp, is more gradually dried, and is rendered less liable to be broken into pieces or cracked by the fire.

The men in the picture who are leaning on the table wrapped in cloths are those that take the porcelain out of the kiln; the other men who are carrying loads of firewood are waiting to fire the next charge; the actual process of carrying out the contents of the furnace is not clearly indicated."

This page is based on an original translation from Chinese by S.W. Bushell, 1899, of a text written on Imperial command in 1743 by Tang Ying, the celebrated superintendent of the porcelain manufacture in the province of Jiangxi. It is widely reprinted. The version most likely to be authentic is the version found in the official annals of the province of Jianxi, Book XCIII, folio 19-23. The first draft seems to have been written in 1735. The version above was added to a set of 'twenty illustrations of the manufacture of porcelain' in 1743. The actual illustrations have never been identified. The text as it appears here is illustrated with photos taken on location by Jan-Erik Nilsson in 1991 and 1992.